Jeffrey Epstein accusers have their day in court

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49486590

Lawyer David Boies arrives with his client Virginia GiuffreImage copyright
Reuters

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Lawyer David Boies arrives with his client Virginia Roberts Giuffre

At least a dozen women who accused financier Jeffrey Epstein of sex abuse are speaking out before his criminal case is dismissed following his death.

The hearing in New York has been scheduled to give the alleged victims a chance to address the court.

A coroner ruled Epstein killed himself this month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors say the investigation into Epstein is ongoing and charges could be brought against any co-conspirators.

The tycoon was found unresponsive in his prison cell on 10 August.

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Reuters

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An unidentified women (L) arrives for the Epstein hearing with Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing the alleged victims

What did the accusers say?

Courtney Wild, who has alleged Epstein sexually abused her when she was 14, told the court: “I feel very angry and sad. Justice has never been served in this case.”

She said Epstein was a “coward” who was able to “manipulate our justice system”.

Virginia Roberts was also among the plaintiffs in court on Tuesday.

She has accused Epstein of keeping her as a “sex slave” when she was a teenager.

Ms Roberts has also alleged she was forced on three occasions to have sex with Prince Andrew, who was a friend of the financier. The Duke of York denies the allegation.

Another of the alleged victims said in a statement through her lawyer to the Miami Herald: “I can’t say that I’m pleased he [Epstein] committed suicide, but I am at peace knowing he will not be able to hurt anyone else.”

Assistant US Attorney Maureen Comey said that the government will continue to investigate Epstein and that “this [case] dismissal in no way lessens the government’s resolve”.

A number of accusers have filed lawsuits against Epstein’s estate. Two days before his death, he signed a will funnelling his $577m (£475m) in assets to a trust fund.

What did Epstein’s lawyer say?

Judge Richard Berman, who scheduled the hearing last week, began on Tuesday by observing that the case had taken “a rather stunning turn of events”.

Reid Weingarten, an attorney for Epstein, asked the judge to look into the circumstances of his client’s death.

A New York medical examiner said the 66-year-old died of “suicide by hanging” in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Mr Weingarten said the defence was “sceptical of the certitude of the medical examiner’s conclusion that this was suicide”, citing issues with video surveillance.

Authorities have told the Washington Post that one hallway camera near Epstein’s prison cell has unusable footage, though clearer footage was captured in the area.

It is unclear what is visible in this footage, or why the other video was not usable.

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating the incident to determine if there was any foul play.

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Reuters

What was Epstein charged with?

Epstein was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002-05.

He was also alleged to have paid large amounts of money to two potential witnesses ahead of his trial, which was scheduled for next year.

Epstein, who pleaded not guilty, was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

He was arrested on 6 July after landing in New Jersey on his private jet.

Epstein avoided similar charges in a controversial secret plea deal in 2008, instead pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Handling of the case was closely scrutinised in recent months and in July US Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, a former Miami prosecutor, resigned over his role in the plea deal.

The former high school teacher moved into finance and cultivated high-profile connections with the likes of former US President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew.

In a 2002 profile in New York Magazine, Mr Trump praised Epstein as a “terrific guy”. But this year, President Trump said he was “not a fan”.

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Getty Images

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Jeffrey Epstein, left, with Donald Trump at the current president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 1997

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